Gig review: Ellen and the Escapades @ The Portland Arms, Cambridge

Who: Ellen and the Escapades
Where: The Portland Arms, Cambridge
When: Monday 5th March, 2012

Every once in a while you’ll hear a voice in music that makes you sit up and take notice. The Joe Strummers of this world will grab you by the balls and drag you in kicking and screaming, there’s others with a twang of mystique to them that draw you in wanting more, and some, like Ellen Smith’s, are so comfortably alluring that you can’t help but be captivated by it. Ellen and the Escapades are more than just a voice though. An outstanding quintet of musicians; the mix of styles in their folk-pop, country-rock offerings along with their superbly honed live performances makes for some really fantastic music, and last night they took Cambridge by storm.

On stage at the Portland Arms

Preceded by the impressive Sam Lewis and Bearmangun, the group took to the stage and opened up with the powerfully hypnotic Run. Within seconds, you’re hooked. Musically tight and with Ellen’s voice on top – it’s a great combination, and as they upped the tempo with the harmonica laden Preying on Your Mind and Without You, feet were tapping and shoulders were visibly jerking across the room. There’s a great consistency to their music, just as good live as on record and you can see they have a real enjoyment in playing their music. The replacement of former bassist Andy Calder with Gary Stewart has had no adverse effect on the group, in fact this has only added to the band’s fine selection of beards on show, an impressive feat in this day and age. Moving effortlessly through older songs found on the 2010 EP ‘Of All The Times’ and newer additions from the upcoming album ‘All the Crooked Scenes’, the band kept up the entertainment between songs, a side which I’d not really seen of them so much at previous gigs. Finishing up with the stunning ‘Coming Back Home’ was the perfect way to end it, a track which when played at 2000 Trees festival last year went down as the only live performance ever to have had me in tears. I was massively hung over in my defence, and erm, it was raining.

The release of the aforementioned ‘All the Crooked Scenes’ next month sees them in the midst of a long running pre-album tour this month, with further dates post-release in April. If they’re coming your way (dates can be found here) then be sure to catch them, as they’ve stepped up from the ‘one to watch for the future’ category to ‘one to definitely watch now’. This is music that will leave you with a massively sloppy smile on your face; so listen to the YouTube links below, buy the album next month, and go and see them. You’ll not regret it.

Without You

When the Tide Creeps In

Coming Back Home


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